Above Suspicion

October 31, 2020

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...unoriginal and underwhelming...
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Above Suspicion

Chris Bright
Year: 2018
Rating: MA
Director: Phillip Noyce
Cast:

Emilia Clarke, Jack Huston, Johnny Knoxville

Distributor: Madman
Format:
Released: Out Now
Running Time: 104 minutes
Worth: $6.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

…unoriginal and underwhelming…

Above Suspicion opens with a line narrated by Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), as real-life murder victim Susan Smith, that goes “You know what’s the worst part about being dead? You get too much time to think.”

This reveals a lot about what lies ahead; not just for her troubled character but the overall quality of the film – from the confusing meaning behind most of the dialogue to Clarke’s over-the-top Kentucky accent.

On paper, this story has everything; a poster boy FBI agent (Jack Huston) enlisting the help of a small-town, drug-addled mother. He sees her as an opportunity to make a big break and she views him as a chance for a better life. Their relationship grows but eventually he realises his mistake and tries to end it, however, she becomes obsessed and soon threatens his marriage and career. The climax should be no surprise to anyone, because even if you didn’t know about this true story of the first FBI agent to be convicted of murder, it’s given away in that opening line.

It’s hard to believe that Above Suspicion is helmed by beloved Australian director Phillip Noyce, whose earlier and more polished work includes everything from Rabbit-Proof Fence to The Saint. However, post-2010 his credits are largely occupied by true-crime episodes and TV movies, which is exactly what this feels like.

Noyce experiments with outdated editing techniques, reminiscent of bad midday movies from the ‘90s. Everything from slow-motion driving cutaways to accompany narrated monologues, to blurry drug-fuelled party scenes that are more annoying than electrifying. He also uses title cards to navigate the physical setting, like “5 miles from Pikeville”, but they mean absolutely nothing without knowing the size of the region. Plus, they’re not used consistently, which seems lazy.

The reason it doesn’t work as a feature-length film is because everything happens so quickly. The two leads only share about three scenes before diving into a full-blown love affair. The scene in the diner where they first show chemistry is just confusing. Similarly, because of the minimal character development, there’s no one worth investing in or rooting for. Even as the credits roll, we see footage of the real-life convicted agent, and as he tells the story he shows very little remorse – it’s more depressing than hard-hitting.

The supporting cast is perhaps the most impressive aspect, with Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville turning in an uncharacteristically serious performance as Smith’s abusive ex-boyfriend and Thora Birch out-acting everyone in only a couple of scenes as Smith’s sister.

It’s hard to believe that so many talented people got together for such an unoriginal and underwhelming film. With the abundance of true crime documentaries and award-winning series readily available on streaming services, you’d be better to save your money than purchase this one.

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